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Have you ever considered the mindset of the early explorers? What thoughts ran through their head as they pushed off from civilization in a relatively small boat sailing toward an unknown, uncharted destination?  I am confident that many possessed a significant degree of bravado, excitement, and courage to motivate them to undertake such a risky act.  For some there was simply need and desperation that drove them.  A few probably did not exert much energy considering risk and reward but simply looked at it as a job to be done, a wage to be earned.  However I can’t imagine that they didn’t have some fears and anxiety.  I expect that through the course of the voyage, particularly when storms would rise up or when the doldrums were encountered, that everyone had to wrestle with the thoughts, “Why is this happening?” “Why did I come on this voyage?” or worst of all, “I shouldn’t have come on this trip.”

I believe our intrepid explorers have a few lessons for us that when applied to life, can make a huge difference in our level of peace and contentment.

1) Hold on to the vision of the distant horizon.  We all need a vision of the something better that we are striving toward.  For the explorers it was to discover new places, find treasures, become famous, possibly become financially secure.  But it was all tied to reaching that distant shore.  Success and fulfillment was predicated upon finding and reaching the coastline of an unknown land.  That it was out there was only a hope for the earliest of explorers.  For later explorers the fact that the distant shore existed was no longer an issue.  However the certainty of reaching it was still in doubt and subject to the skill of the captain and crew, the accuracy of the maps and information of the few who had gone before, and to a very large degree the obstacles that they would have to overcome to reach their final destination.

2) Continue to look forward.  Do not waste time and energy looking back.  I have read a number of books about sea-faring in the late 1700’s and early 1800’s.  The most dangerous attitude aboard ship was the nay-sayer.  This attitude was like a virus that could quickly spread and infect many in the crew.  The “I should never have come on this voyage, we’re doomed” mentality often becomes self-fulfilling.

3) Be prepared.  Practice and hone the skills that you will need in challenging situations before you need them.  Don’t wait until the battle with marauders and pirates to learn how to fight effectively.  Know how to quickly and efficiently secure the ship should a squall rapidly descend upon you so you are not capsized.  This takes vision, planning, and hard work, but it is worth it.

4) Sail with the right captain.  Ultimately the capabilities and decisions of the captain and his leadership will determine the success of the voyage.  The best captain knows his crew well.  He understands what will be required of the ship and crew.  He is able to gauge the gap between where the crew is in its capability, where it needs to be, and what it takes to get to where it needs to be.  And then he is able to take them there.  Discipline, focus, and hard-work are a few of the keys to achieving success and the right captain sets the perfect tone to achieve this.

There are parallels between those who set out upon the sea to search out new worlds centuries ago and people today.  Life is best lived with a fulfilling destination in mind.  Some life goals (distant horizons) are better than others.  A secure retirement is enough for some.  Seeing their children marry well for others.  While these are not bad things, I think they fall short of the type of distant horizon that infuses a person with hope, courage, and the commitment to persevere when the way gets hard.  I wrote about a Life Well-lived the other day.  That is my distant horizon.  It is my deepest desire to hear my heavenly Father say – “Well done my good and faithful child.  Enter into the rest prepared for you.”  I admit to you I am not even close to being the person who should expect such a greeting, but I know God is working in my life and I believe Him when He says to trust and follow Him.

We have to look forward and not spend our time wallowing in regrets.  Grace is so amazing.  When we make mistakes, when we sin, we can KNOW that we are forgiven because of what Jesus did for us on the cross.  We simply need to confess and repent (turn away from the sin) and turn back to the Lord.  He promises to forgive us and wash us of all sin stains.  In fact the bible goes so far as to say that the righteousness of Jesus is imputed to His followers.  I have a hard time wrapping my head around that at times, but when we humbly come to Jesus and seek His forgiveness, He so freely gives it and embraces us that all that is visible is His righteousness.  Since we have this amazing grace lavished upon us, how can we then wallow in regrets.  We should not.  We must look forward to what God is calling us to.

Life is not always easy.  In fact for some much of life is demanding and challenging.  For others of us, life is often “good” much of the time with challenging seasons.  At church last night one member of the care team described how her mission trip to Africa completely changed her.  She saw so many people with so few earthly possessions, so little comfort, seeming nothing really to be joyful about and yet they radiated joy as they heard and received Jesus in their lives.  She described the exuberant, over-flowing joy as these believers rejoiced in their Lord and Savior.  Regardless of whether you are in Kenya or South Carolina or anywhere else, you will experience challenges and it is best to prepare before you are in the difficulty.  For believers that means to have read and studied the bible so it is in your heart already.  It means to have an active prayer life so you are connected to the One Who is your anchor in the storm and the wind in your sails when it is time to move.  It means being connected to the body of Christ in real and tangible ways.  You have people you can turn to in times to trouble who can be Jesus’ hands and feet when you desperately need comfort and guidance.  It means daily seeking to grow closer to Jesus and to model your life after His.

Finally the right captain makes all the difference.  I know a lot of people who believe they are the captain.  Eventually this will always goes bad at some point.  We were not created to live life separate from God.  He is the only One Who can fill that role perfectly.  My life radically, wonderfully changed when I made a conscious decision to get out of the captain’s chair of my life and ask Jesus to take over.  Jesus puts His Holy Spirit within His followers when we relinquish control of our lives.  It requires perseverance to stay away from the captain’s chair since our minds (and all the pressure of the world) tell us we need to be in control, but the Lord truly knows and wants the best for us.  One of the most important traits of a believer is humility.  Humility comes when we recognize that we cannot do life on our own, we cannot reach the distant horizon when we push the true Captain out of the captain’s chair, and our role – whatever it may be, is what we need to focus upon.  When we are humble there will be times when the Lord gives us the helm, but we must never forget that He is the Captain we must follow.

I hope you’ve enjoyed our little voyage today.  A good deal of the naval knowledge that I was thinking of as I wrote this came from the novels by Patrick O’Brian.  The first novel in the series is Master and Commander which was also made into a movie with Russell Crowe as Captain Jack Aubrey.

Have a wonderfully blessed day and may your sails be full as you sail to the distant horizon God has called you to.

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